4.5 out of 5 Stars!
Armageddon was a short-lived “supergroup” (its members being from Captain Beyond, Iron Butterfly, Steamhammer, Yardbirds, and Renaissance) that produced only a single album. And sadly, just after the album was released, the group broke up due to record company problems, drug addiction, and illness, but this sole album left a deep and indelible impression on many budding musicians, including myself.
For me, this one album (with its mixture of Hard Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Heavy Metal, and Progressive Rock) seemed a cross between groups such as Captain Beyond, Budgie, and Led Zeppelin, with the music being generally creative, atmospheric, and so outstanding on numerous levels that it left me (and scores of fans) ravenous for more.
The frantic opening track, “Buzzard,” for example, is an outstanding slice of Psych-Rock and Metal with extraordinary performances by all, while the next track “Silver Tightrope” has a majestically spacey atmosphere that adds a Prog-Rock touch to the band’s Heavy Psych sound. “Paths and Planes and Future Games” is mostly straightforward Hard Rock, but the psychedelic elements once again pop up. And the final two tracks, the rather bouncy and funky “Last Stand Before” and the Prog-tinged eleven-minute epic “Basking in the White of the Midnight Sun,” with its dastardly riffs and multiple sections, really show off the skills of each band member, especially guitarist Martin Pugh’s imaginative riffs and solos. Meanwhile, bassist Louis Cennamo and drummer Bobby Caldewell display their chops with creative fills and tight interplay, and Keith Relf’s periodic harmonica solos blare through the dense musical soundscapes like a warning siren on a foggy night.
Generally speaking, I can’t help thinking that had any of these tracks appeared on a Captain Beyond album, they likely would have seemed right at home. Indeed, the Captain Beyond comparisons are probably the most appropriate when it comes to all the former groups of Armageddon’s members, and had Captain Beyond’s Rod Evans been the lead vocalist of Armageddon, things may have gone differently for the group. Don’t get me wrong…certainly, Keith Relf did a “passable” job on these five tracks, but his vocals are not the most consistent, recognizable, or beefy overall—perfectly fitting for Yardbirds, perhaps, but not as perfect for this type of heavier, more experimental material.
Therefore, had Armageddon had a more accurate and commanding vocalist such as those typically hired by Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple/Rainbow), for instance, this album may have received a more enthusiastic reception with the often-fleeting and commercially swayed “average listener” back in ’75.
But then again, none of the five tracks offered here are in the least bit “commercial,” with this album being instantly assigned to the fledgling FM radio stations of the era with their more limited audience.
Regardless, Armageddon deserved worldwide fame, especially within the Heavy Metal/Heavy Psych community, and the band’s lone album easily falls into the “must have if stranded on a deserted island” category.